Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 October 2020

Some of the UAE's world records are worthy pursuits and reflect the right spirit

Last December, when the UAE served the largest variety of desserts – 2,586 kinds – from over 50 countries, it broke another in a long list of the country’s records. If the triumph helps to draw attention to the fact that the country offers plenty of fine dining, that is commendable. The dishes probably tasted nice, too.

So far, the UAE has nearly 340 Guinness World Records, with 224 from Dubai alone. Some are amazing, some remarkable, some – quite simply – unique.

Among them, of course, is the record held by the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. There is reason to be proud of that. Among other feathers in the nation’s cap is the world’s largest airport terminal in Dubai, the world’s largest mall and the world’s largest indoor ski resort.

These well-known accomplishments apart, many of the lesser-known records are worthy achievements in their own way. The 5,500 students from Sharjah’s India International School who created a record-breaking human image of a coffee pot, for example, must have enjoyed doing so. And the Ras Al Khaimah Police, surely, are happy to have created the world’s largest police badge, even if they may not be quite sure what to do with it. The world’s largest carpet of fresh flowers, the world’s largest hand-woven spiral placemat – the list goes on.

The ‘fun’ UAE world records, like the placemat or the largest carpet of flowers, or even the record for standing on the seat of a motorcycle, are fine. They reflect a spirit of commitment, organisation and endeavour that reflect well upon a country that seeks to excel

Despite the hackneyed phrase that ‘all publicity is good publicity’, it might be a slip to think that publicity around such records is always positive.

The record for the world’s most expensive Christmas tree, for example, was held until recently by a tree at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. It was put up in 2011 and valued at around $11 million (Dh40m) because of the diamonds and other precious stones on its branches.

More recently, it seems that people outside the Emirates have decided that here is an ideal place to launch other, similar record-breaking attempts.

The world’s most expensive wedding cake, at an estimated price of $75 million (Dh275m), made for an unnamed buyer, was announced with a flourish. The world’s most expensive shoe, a mere $19.9m (Dh73m) was unveiled on a yacht in Dubai to excited media coverage. The latest such unveiling was a diamond-encrusted toilet bowl, now on show in Dubai. A breathless press release reported that it had 40,815 diamonds, totalling 334 carats, and was valued at $1.28m (Dh4.7m). Originally displayed in Shanghai last year, it has been awarded a Guinness World Record certificate for “the most number of diamonds set on a toilet bowl.”

The UAE, of course, promotes many other superlatives and world records, such as the number of children who have benefited from Dubai Cares, for example, and people affected by natural disasters who have received Emirati humanitarian aid. The world would do better to put these achievements at the forefront of its collective mind.

The world’s rarest duck, the Madagascar pochard, has recently taken a step away from extinction thanks to a programme supported, in part, by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. Is that not worth a bit of breathless prose?

The ‘fun’ UAE world records, like the placemat or the largest carpet of flowers, or even the record for standing on the seat of a motorcycle, are fine. They reflect a spirit of commitment, organisation and endeavour that reflect well upon a country that seeks to excel.

Of the records based on expenditure, however, I take a different view. The UAE ought to be known around the world for the services it provides to its people, for the contributions it makes to those in need, and, yes, for a bit of quirky fun as well. That is certainly an objective worth pursuing.

Updated: February 12, 2020 07:04 PM

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